Monster Harvest tries to blend a charming, carefree farming sim with a Pokemon-style combat system. A tall order for any game to try and achieve success. Can these ingredients be combined with some 8-bit frosting to produce an enjoyable game?
Monster Harvest puts you in control of a small farm where you must plant seeds to grow crops in order to earn some money. Plough the fields, water the seeds and harvest them when they grow to maturity. But wait, there is a twist. Get your hands on a mysterious slime and apply it to your crops and you will end up turning your crop into a creature called a planimal.
Planimals can be used for combat, as livestock, and even as mounts to travel around the island. The concept is really cool and with there being 12 core crops to work with, there is a nice level of a variety of planimals to create.
The main flaw with the planimals is even though they look different, there really isn’t much of a benefit/difference between them. When it comes to games like Pokemon, using a water Pokemon against a Fire Pokemon will give you an upper hand in combat and adds a level of strategy. Fighting planimals is a watered-down experience. There is pretty much no strategy at all. The monsters just bash each other until one of them is dead. No potions, powerups, healing items, or any mechanics to give you some sort of control over the outcome of the battle.
Using planimals for livestock is also a rather boring experience. Looking past the bugs that make the barn quite difficult to use, the process involves taking hay from a box and putting it into another box in the same room, each day. That’s the extent of it. It doesn’t make sense why the livestock couldn’t just eat the hay from the main box that you take the hay from, it is in the same room and is not covered.
Farming is the core of this game and is burdened by a rather ridiculous stamina system. You wake up in the morning with a full stamina bar. You can water a set number of crops before you are so exhausted, you must go to bed or take a stamina potion to continue. Since these potions are expensive and eating crops is a waste of money, your only real option is to go to bed. This puts an immediate limit on the number of crops you can grow in the early parts of the game.
Once you progress quite a bit further in the game, you will unlock the ability to automate the watering of crops, which does allow you to expand your crop yield significantly. By the time you get this, however, you will have completed a large amount of the game and have had to deal with all of the stamina-related frustrations up until this point.
The watering can won’t be your only source of anguish with the stamina bar. Using the pickaxe, hoe, fishing rod and even picking flowers will drain your stamina at a similar rate. You can only perform a certain number of actions per day before you are too tired to continue. This makes sense but the rate at which your stamina bar depletes is rather annoying. Although you can purchase upgraded tools that consume less stamina, the early days of farming are a massive chore and quite frustrating due to this limitation.
When you have spent time working up a little army of planimals, you can bring them to the dungeon to fight. The dungeon is the subject of the main plot of the game. It is the source of the mysterious slime and you must get to the end to figure out what is going on.
The dungeon is a randomly generated series of rooms each time you visit that contain unique resources not found outside. Each room gives you a chance of encountering another planimal that you must fight. Due to how dull the combat is, it is often easier to just run past most of the battles since there is little to gain from fighting.
Planimals are pretty much cannon fodder in the dungeon. There is little reason for you to hope for their survival. They do level up but when they die, you receive heart dust that you can spread on the soil in your farm that will result in all planimals in your party, pen or planimals you grow in the future, starting off at a higher level. You essentially have to keep killing planimals in the dungeon before you are strong enough to get to the end.
Playing this game on console is most definitely the worst experience you can have. The UI was built for a PC and does not work at all with a controller. Trying to type your name into the keyboard at the start of the game is a challenge. Button presses do not register, moving to the side or up often moves you 2 or 3 places. Considering consoles have a system-level keyboard that games can utilize for text input, this broken custom keyboard should have never been left in the game.
Inventory management takes things to a new level of frustration. When you try to move up, you would assume your cursor would move to the inventory space above, but it does not. It often shoots up and to the left or right a few spaces. It just randomly shoots around the inventory grid. Makes it frustrating to select an item in a chest and move it to your inventory.
On several occasions, the UI issues will cause items to be lost. When you harvest crops but your inventory is full, you must quickly drop some junk. Dropping an item from your inventory is difficult to achieve. There is a button to trash items but navigating it only works sometimes. The UI in this game is incredibly flawed and constantly causes problems.
Music is an important part of a game like this. When you are spending large amounts of time performing farming-related tasks, you want some nice music to accompany it. Monster Harvest doesn’t have a bad soundtrack but it is ruined by some rather obtrusive sounds that repeat on an obvious loop.
There is a constant high-pitched buzzing that is most likely meant to be flies buzzing but sounds more like someone cutting metal pipes with an angle grinder. It repeats on a loop every few seconds and is the loudest sound that cuts above the music and everything else. The sound is even present while inside a house, somewhere bugs shouldn’t be hanging around you would think. This is like a dripping tap that will eventually get to you. There is no settings menu to adjust audio levels so you will eventually have to turn off audio or turn on Spotify to suppress this awful sound.
Once you have experienced the dungeons and farming, there does not appear to be anything more to work toward. You can expand your farm to do more of the same. Purchase upgrades for your tools and purchase things to decorate your farm. None of which really gives you anything new. Combat is watered down and dull, farming is basic, and once automated you pretty much earn money to purchase decorations. Decorating your own farm is fun, but the game offers no long-term objectives to work toward.